Recycling for Charity


While recycling itself is a worthwhile endeavor, when intertwined with charitable organizations, its power for good is taken to far greater heights.

A perfect example has been under way in St. Petersburg, Fla., for several years now. By picking up used paper donated by various companies and eventually hauling it to a local paper company, a developmental training program is helping build better lives for its mentally handicapped trainees.

“It’s really been exciting — much more far-reaching than we ever expected,” said Kathy Roegiers, manager of the local Goodwill Industries’ program. “It has allowed our trainees to be more a part of the community, rather than a burden, which is the ultimate goal for our program.”

When the recycling idea was first conceived, most paper companies told Goodwill that the amount of paper was too small for them to deal with, Roegiers said. However, one local paper company said it would start referring all its smaller customers to Goodwill.

This simple effort made the project happen. Soon company after company was calling to donate used paper to the training program. Today, more than 100 companies take part in the project.
Between the Goodwill’s transportation department and the trainees, all the paper is picked up at the participating companies and brought back for sorting. Goodwill drivers coordinate paper pick-ups on their regular routes to collect used items, Roegiers said, while the trainees travel in their own bus to pick up the rest of the paper.

The training program provides mentally handicapped individuals with paid work experience in preparation for eventual community jobs. The recycling project has been a perfect addition because it teaches trainees social skills when they go out to pick up the paper, Roegiers said. It also has provided them with plenty of physical activity due to the continual and substantial flow of paper.

“The need out there for someone to pick this paper up is tremendous,” Roegiers said. “A lot of people are interested in donating if it will just get picked up. It’s done us a lot of good.”

In another example, a group of Ohio grocery stores recently held an aluminum can drive, with all proceeds going to benefit the Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland.

At the Square to Square street festival, which attracts upwards of 300,000 people to downtown Cleveland each year, Stop-N-Shop grocery stores set up a collection site with ALCOA, and awarded a $1,000 gift certificate to the person who brought in the most cans.

Held in conjunction with the national Children’s Miracle Network Telethon, the event was an Ohio approach to raise money for its local children’s hospital, said Harry Graham, executive director of Stop-N-Shop.

“Our intent was to help clean up area neighborhoods, sponsor a recycling effort and raise funds for a worthwhile cause,” he said.

With similar activities being developed and undertaken in other parts of the country, recycling and charity will continue to be a powerful union — benefiting both the environment and society.

(Tip/Stat) Recycling one ton of office paper will save 17 trees.

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